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Assessing the Impact of Extreme Droughts on Rural Areas of the Aspiring UNESCO Scheldt Delta Geopark

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Assessing the Impact of Extreme Droughts on Rural Areas of the Aspiring UNESCO Scheldt Delta Geopark

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The present study focuses on the environmental and socio-economic impacts of extreme drought in the Aspiring UNESCO Scheldt Delta Geopark (ASDG). Climate change projections indicate that periods of extreme drought, as experienced in 2018, are likely to occur with higher frequency and intensity in the future. The recent drought in North-Western Europe has highlighted the ASDG’s vulnerability to this complex natural hazard. Drought-related impacts are further intensified by the increasing demands on water resources from all sectors, depleting freshwater availability (Grillakis, 2019).
These pressures consequently lead to decreased freshwater availability, manifested in two different manners depended on the geomorphology of the impacted area. In the low lying clay soils 1.) salinization forms the main threat to freshwater availability, mainly affecting the agricultural sector, while in elevated sandy soils 2.) low water tables result in numerous environmental and socio-economic impacts for both nature conservation and agriculture.
Across the ASDG more sunny days combined with higher temperatures were found to have a net-positive impact on the recreation and tourism sector.
This research combines both primary and secondary data from literature review and 15 semi-structured expert interviews. Frome here the data was analysed according to the DPSIR method combined with concepts of resilience and vulnerability.
From these environmental impacts socio-economic repercussions for the sectors agriculture, nature conservation and recreation are specified. It is found that the agricultural sector is most vulnerable to the negative impacts of extreme drought. The nature conservation sector seems rather resilient to extreme droughts, with the exception of groundwater reliant ecosystems, such as fens, heathers and humid dune slacks. On the contrary, the recreational sector seems to benefit significantly from extensive dry and warm periods, as many people are drawn to the deltaic area.
Furthermore, responses of the three sectors to the impacts of extreme drought are analysed and adaptation strategies for the different regions are stipulated. Generally, adaptation options in low lying clay soils focus either on adapting to the saline environment, or maintaining the current freshwater system. Along the elevated sandy soils adaptation strategies focus on retaining, storing and infiltrating as much rainwater as possible. Finally, a 6-step process is presented which assists policy and decision makers in incorporating these adaptation strategies into the long-term development vision of the ASDG.

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OrganisatieHZ University of Applied Sciences
OpleidingWatermanagement/ Deltamanagement
AfdelingDomein Techniek
PartnersProvincie Zeeland, Middelburg
Datum2019-07-02
TypeBachelor
TaalEngels

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